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JULES ARMINGAUD - VIOLINIST

Scarce autographed and inscribed Antony Thouret Fils of Paris carte de visite by the French violinist to Eulalie Dreyfus Ulmann, October, 1869.

Armingaud writes in part on both sides of the free space on the photograph mount, This profile in complete image does not profit enough for friendship because my senile and good exit…….This one is entirely devoted to you, my dear Mme. Ulmann to you and to all yours…..he includes a heart illustration.

Armingaud (1820-1900) is an important figure in the violinist world in Paris in the mid 19th Century. From Bayonne, not much is known about his early history.  That said, by the time he arrived in Paris at age nineteen, he was thought to be too skilled a violinist for entrance into the Paris Conservatoire and was summarily rejected.  He was deeply rooted in the music of Ludwig van Beethoven which was unusual in France at that time. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was not premiered in France until 1839.  He made an early trip to London on a recital tour where his performance was deemed to have been  “performed superbly”.  In 1848 the violinist became friendly with Édouard Lalo and they joined together the Association des Artistes Musicians, a left wing musical organization.  The pair came together in 1855 to found the Armingaud String Quartet with violinist Joseph Mars and cellist Léon Jacquard.  Whilst Liszt introduced the Beethoven Piano Trios to Paris, the new Armingaud Quartet introduced the Beethoven String Quartets in professional performances before the public, as well as a number of Haydn, Schubert’s, Schumann’s and Mendelssohn’s string quartets.  Gounod wrote his C Major String Quartet for the group, Lalo wrote his Piano Trios for himself and Armingaud, Felicien David, Edouard Wolff, Alexis de Castillon are among the composers who also wrote for the group.  They began to work with flautist Paul Taffanel and he brought other wind instruments to the group which was redubbed the Société Classique.  The chamber group disbanded in 1876. 

To make his daily bread so to speak, Armingaud who was considered one of the finest violinists in Paris, but did not want a touring career was the concertmaster of the orchestra of the Opera de Paris.  He was also Pablo Sarasate’s first violin professor when he came to Paris and initially was denied admission to the Paris Conservatoire as he was not French. 

On an interesting side note, Ninon de Saint-Marie, Massenet’s future wife was Armingaud’s first cousin.  Massenet wrote his second piano trio for her to perform with Armingaud and Léon Jacquard in 1865 whilst he was in Rome on his Prix de Rome year. When Massenet married Ninon in 1869, Armingnon was co-best man with Nino’s brother.  He thereafter referred to Armingaud as “my cousin”.  

The violinist also promoted the violins made by the luthier Charles Collin-Mézin, who stated they were the equal of a Stradavarius for “flexibility of sound”.  Apparently, Joseph Joachim also agreed with the assessment.

Eulalie Stella Dreyfus Ulmann (1846 - 1919) was born into a wealthy, Jewish Parisian banking family.  She married the Alsatian Jewish historical muralist Benjamin Ulmann (1829-1884) in May, 1869. Ulmann studied from 1849 at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and won the Prix de Rome in Painting in 1859. He spent much of his career creating biblical mural sized oil paintings for the French governmental buildings.  His smaller works are well represented at auction  Eulalie’s inheritance allowed them to live in comfort and style, hosting salons in their home in Paris.  The salons were well attended by famous personages at the time including composers, musicians painters and writers.